Imagine a seemingly paradoxical situation where local corporations complain that they are unable to find enough workers to fill their vacancies, but thousands of people remain unemployed.
This has been the situation faced by Taiwanese companies and jobseekers over the past few months.
The latest data from the -Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), showed that the vacancy rate for employees in local companies — including both service and industrial sectors — rose to 3.36 percent in February, the highest level since 1999.
The vacancy rate in the manufacturing sector topped that of the industrial sector, with a rate of 4.05 percent, while electronic components firms recorded the overall highest vacancy rate at 4.79 percent, DGBAS said in the report.
In the service sector, the wholesale and retail industry faced the most acute labor shortage, with a vacancy rate of 2.62 percent, DGBAS said.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate has not yet fallen to the level it was at before the financial crisis of 2008, with a relatively high jobless rate of 4.35 percent in June, according to DGBAS data.
That means a total of 486,000 people are still out of work.
Chen Min (陳憫), a deputy director at the DGBAS’ statistics bureau, expects labor shortages and unemployment to gradually improve in the near future as the vacancies are filled.
However, many economists see the coexistence of such a contradictory phenomena as a sign of deeper structural problems that will be far more difficult to resolve.
This imbalance in the job market results from the fact that many positions being offered fail to meet jobseekers’ minimum requirements, whereas other firms cannot find qualified enough jobseekers to accept the positions they are offering.
Hsin Ping-lung (辛炳隆), an associate professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development, says that jobseekers tend to be more picky about pays and working conditions when the economy bounces back — like now.
“This means that in the short-term, low-end, low-paid or night-shift positions — such as waiters, waitresses and production-line workers — are less attractive to jobseekers,” Hsin said.
Another problem is that the increased number of college graduates entering the labor market has transformed the nature of the jobseekers market, as many are only willing to take office jobs, as opposed to laboring jobs, Hsin added.
The latest labor shortage data from the DGBAS backs up Hsin’s statement, indicating that skilled workers, factory workers and assembly line workers account for 28.4 percent of the nation’s vacant positions.
However, Joseph Lee (李誠), a labor economist and vice principal at National Central University, says that the recent labor shortage could be directly linked to the structural problem of unreasonably low wages.
“Firms that complain about a shortage of labor are like people who want to get a luxury BMW car for the same price as a Honda Civic,” Lee said.
In contrast, companies offering high-end positions with decent pay and working conditions often find that none of the applicants interviewed are qualified for the job.
“We hope to recruit 800 new employees — mostly in the marketing and design engineering sectors — this year, but we soon realized that it was going to be difficult to find so many qualified candidates, as many were not familiar with related hardware,” a notebook contract maker’s human resource manager, surnamed Yang (楊), told the Taipei Times.